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IFC Launches Plan to Pump Up Fridays

Mar 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

IFC is inviting viewers to its version of dinner and a movie on Friday nights.
The network, with about 40 million subscribers, is aggressively bumping up its original programming, and plans to showcase it on what it will call IFC Fridays. It’s backing the new schedule with the biggest consumer marketing promotion in its 10-year history by using the slogan “TGIFC.”
Other networks tend to ignore Friday because of low viewership levels. But that’s an opportunity for IFC, which is moving its signature show, “Dinner for Five,” to Fridays at 10 p.m. (ET) beginning April 9. It will use “D45” to support the launch of other new shows, starting with “Rocked With Gina Gershon,” which follows the band the actress toured with to support her film “Prey for Rock & Roll.” In a bit of what would have been called synergy in a more innocent time, Ms. Gershon is one of Jon Favreau’s guests on the April 9 episode of “D45.”
Friday night’s original programming will be preceded by the top films in IFC’s library at 8 p.m. and followed at 11 p.m. by “Pulp Indies,” a crime-and-thriller film franchise that Michael Ruggiero, IFC Television’s director of programming, said has developed a loyal following. The network does not subscribe to Nielsen Media Research, so ratings are unavailable.
The strategy was developed by Mr. Ruggiero and IFC Senior VP of Marketing Evan Shapiro just days after Mr. Shapiro joined the network from Court TV in February.
“Before we even let go of our handshake we decided that Friday night was a great opportunity,” Mr. Shapiro said. “I said, `Let’s heat up Fridays.”’ And now, he added, “The network has enough programming to make a solid night for 30-some-odd weeks.”
With a single night to concentrate on, IFC Fridays will be like “IFC on steroids,” Mr. Shapiro said. The idea is to create a destination that will meld the network’s brand and programming in the minds of viewers, who are described as somewhat male and young, but not as young as the folks who are piling into the multiplex on Friday nights.
Since the network is commercial-free, its marketing efforts until now have been aimed primarily at cable operators. If those operators thought viewers would upgrade to digital to get IFC, IFC got more carriage. With its 10th anniversary at hand, the network is turning its attention to viewers.
Mr. Shapiro said the network will mount its largest campaign ever, spending $1 million, most of it over two weeks around the time of the show launch.
IFC is advertising itself on cable. “The best way to sell cable is cable,” Mr. Shapiro said. Spots will be concentrated on Thursdays and Fridays, when viewers will decide what to watch.
The posts will promote “D45,” and the network hopes viewers will stay tuned for the rest of the night. “We think that `Dinner for Five’ can do for our network what `South Park’ did for Comedy Central and `Biography’ did for A&E,” Mr. Shapiro said.
In addition to boosting its promotional efforts, Mr. Ruggiero said, IFC will be aggressively boosting its commitment to the kind of original programming its movie-buff audience will appreciate.
Shows in the pipeline include “Ultimate Film Fanatic,” a competition show that features fans answering trivia questions, debating the virtues of movies and displaying their memorabilia collections. Judges will be Traci Lords, Richard Roundtree and Jason Mewes. Two finalists have dinner with Peter Fonda, who picks the winner. The winner gets to program the network for a night-though it won’t be a Friday.
Another show being produced is “Film School,” a 10-part reality series following NYU film students directed by Nanette Burstein.
IFC last week aired an original documentary, “In the Company of Women,” exploring the role of women in independent films. The network also plans “In Search of Ted Demme,” a tribute to the late director, and “Slasher,” John Landis’ film about a man who bills himself as the “greatest living used car salesman.”
The network is benefiting from the increased visibility of independent films, with movies such as “Sling Blade,” “Shine” and “Pulp Fiction” proving to be popular far beyond the so-called art houses, Mr. Ruggiero said. The popularity means IFC can present a brand of film he described as “art house that’s not so exclusionary.”